This is the first post on our new GANE blog, and it happens to be an updated version of a post from August 27th on my site, www.exopermaculture.com.
Hopefully, we will be posting regularly on this GANE blog. If you are a member of or otherwise interested in GANE, then you might want to send me stuff YOU think should be on the blog — photos, ideas, comments, discussion points, etc.
On Friday, August 26, we held the first of no doubt, many, Meet & Greets, for GANE (pronounced gone-ay). I and my friend Doug (whom I originally met when we were both members of the core group that started Transition Bloomington) are co-founders of GANE. Doug created this website and has been the main driver with me as his devoted sidekick.
The two of us bring complementary skills and experience to the GANE experiment. Doug has been reading about intentional communities for decades, all this time longing to join one; this summer, on a trip to the west coast he scheduled extensive tours and conversations with people in five different intentional communities. He then shared photos and comments of his trip with me on his return to give us a better feel for the kind of structure and tone that we’d like to create for GANE.
Old enough to be Doug’s mother, I have led a long and colorful experimental life, living mostly in community of one kind or another since I was a kid, where I was the oldest of eight. Of course my drive has been the opposite — to get away, live alone! But usually I haven’t done so. Either I couldn’t afford it, or the opportunity for living with certain others was just too interesting to pass up, or some project had us all living and working together, and so on. I’ve lived in two different summer communes on the coast of Massachusetts, in a shared household as a professor with students in California, in a shared household that ran a magazine in Jackson, Wyoming, in a shared lodge in the middle of a redwood forest near Mendocino. I’ve also been married four times, and lived with step children — and even, on one occasion, for a year with a beloved ex-husband and his new wife and their blended kid family! In short, I’m no stranger to cooperative living.
In our talks about community, Doug and I discovered that both of us have lived peripatetic lives, like birds on the wing, rarely lighting for very long in any one place. Only when each of us got to Bloomington did the idea of settling actually sink in! For me, it’s really the first place I’ve ever wanted to call “home,” in fact, the first place where I discovered what “feeling at home” feels like!
I’ve lived here for eight years now, working most of that time as a neighborhood activist, dreaming of turning the Green Acres neighborhood, an unwieldly, 440-home, 66% student rental, area of the city bounded on four sides by arterial roads, into a real village. And yet, no matter what I do, I feel like I’m failing, since the vision is so huge, and my efforts like scraping fingernails across hard cement to get to the pooled, nourishing water underneath — over and over, scratching the surface, experimenting with one form after another, with wave upon wave of transient activists. The latest project is the most successful, a commons that seems even relatively permanent, the Green Acres Neighborhood Garden, which I established nearly three years ago next door on a sunny southfacing lawn of the house I bought for that purpose.
My inspired acquisition then attracted one of my sons to move from Massachusetts and live in that house, with two IU graduate students who are, by the way, also interested, though not as rabidly so, in the idea of seeding an ecovillage into an already existing neighborhood. BTW: it’s also called “retrofit co-housing;” instead of building from scratch, using precious energy to embed energy in new structures, you simply change the way you live with what’s already built. In other words, allow a mind-shift that switches from alienation to cooperation. Rather than worrying about “nosy neighbors” we invite them to join with us in a renewed sense of neighborliness.
So we already had two houses right next to each other that shared this common vision, though I hadn’t connected the dots between this paired set of houses and the ecovillage idea for the whole neighborhood. When in June Doug suggested that to get the ecovillage going we start small, really small, right where we are, on Overhill between 5th and 7th Street, I was dumbfounded. What a brilliant idea! And of course, like all brilliant ideas, obvious, once voiced!
On the very afternoon that he said this, a For Rent sign went up across the street. The synchronicity between our conversation and the timing of that sign felt like divine choreography. On August 1st, Doug moved in across the street on Overhill with two housemates whom he attracted by advertising in Craigslist, like this, (copied verbatim):
Green Acres Neighborhood Ecovillage (Bloomington)
Date: 2011-08-25, 7:52PM EDT
Reply to: see below [Errors when replying to ads?]
Want to build community, live sustainably, and, above all, have fun? Life in our growing ecovillage connects you on a daily basis with others who choose to live lightly on the land while deepening their connections with each other and the natural world.
Green Acres Neighborhood Ecovillage (GANE) (pronounced “gone-ay”) is an intentional cohousing community formed within the boundaries of an established suburban neighborhood. We are using the “retrofit cohousing” model, inspired by N Street Cohousing in Davis, CA. While most cohousing communities are built from the ground up, like N Street, we chose the practical, cost-effective alternative of taking advantage of already-existing resources and built structures.
At this point in our evolution, our ecovillage consists of a cluster of three homes and their inhabitants (both renters and owners) next door and across the street from each other, within the established 400-plus home Green Acres Neighborhood in Bloomington, Indiana.
In order to grow an ecovillage within an already existing neighborhood, we plan to establish multiple clusters of two or more houses located next to (or very close to) each other. All the clusters together constitute the ecovillage. We will work together to gradually expand our presence in the neighborhood until we reach a critical mass, when hopefully, the entire neighborhood will begin to recognize itself as an ecovillage.
Green Acres neighborhood is conveniently located within walking/biking distance of Indiana University (which borders it on the west), of downtown Bloomington (west of campus), and of one of Bloomington’s major shopping hubs (to the south and east). Buses to all parts of Bloomington and Indiana University conveniently run on major streets that mark the outside boundaries of the neighborhood. Green Acres is also a short drive from three state parks and numerous lakes of various sizes, all with walking trails.
With its prime location, excellent schools, and an exceptional record of neighborhood safety, Green Acres is a prime location for singles, families, retired folks and IU students, all of whom we welcome in our ecovillage!
We are currently seeking new members, particularly starting Summer 2012, when many more houses will likely become available. If you’re still interested after reading the above, we suggest you do the following:
**Read our Vision and Values to see if they resonate with you (http://www.ganecovillage.org/vision-and-values)
**If so, join our email list (instructions here: http://www.ganecovillage.org/contact)
**Get to know us by coming to the gatherings and events that you will hear about via the email list
**If it feels like a good fit, begin keeping an eye out for houses for rent or sale!
it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
And guess what? We’ve already got 28 people signed up on our email list who are interested in moving into the neighborhood and helping to engender the ecovillage. Not surprising, actually, when I think about it, since people everywhere are beginning to notice the imbalance in a culture that stresses individuality and self-sufficiency to such an extent that it shades into selfishness and greed and promotes a winner-take-all sense of scarcity for all the rest. What is missing is, of course, community, cooperation, and what makes that of value, is the recognition of our shared fate.
However, if we continue to undergo more extreme weather and telluric events, I imagine the lesson of our shared fate will be quickly, and unexpectedly, absorbed. The spectre of current ongoing invisible radiation from Fukushima that affects the entire globe is not nearly as impactful as ruined homes, crashing trees, power outages, and walls of water and wind.
So, last night, we had our first Meet & Greet. Doug and I and his housemates met for the first time with two young, wonderfully alive and energetic young women who work for a big landlord in town to fix things when they break. What better skills to bring to an ecovillage! Plus, they are both serious rollerbladers, and we’re already planning a GANE cheering section at their first game, next February. And we’re already talking about them setting up their long-dreamed of little wine brewery (is that what you’d call it?) in a bathtub-sized section of my full basement, plus another common project as well. Hopefully, by next September, they will also have found a place to rent nearby that will house their six cats, two dogs, and ball python snake.
Here’s two more photos.